Gershon: ‘Hope, Optimism’

Loida Lewis hosted Perry Gershon, a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination to represent New York's First Congressional District, at her East Hampton residence. Pictured from left are David Mazujian, E.T. Williams, Ms. Lewis, Mr. Gershon, Alice Tepper Marlin, and Bill Pickens. Christopher Walsh

Perry Gershon, a Democratic candidate hoping to challenge First District Representative Lee Zeldin in the midterm election, told supporters on Saturday that his campaign’s polling indicates he and Kate Browning are neck and neck for the Democratic nomination, and that the other three candidates trail them by a wide margin. 

Mr. Gershon spoke with supporters at the East Hampton Village residence of Loida Lewis on Saturday, appealing to guests to vote for him in the June 26 primary and to encourage others to do so as well. A first-time candidate from East Hampton, he will face off against Ms. Browning, Vivian Viloria-Fisher, David Pechefsky, and Elaine DiMasi in the primary election. 

Mr. Gershon is establishing a temporary campaign headquarters at Keyes Art at 53 the Circle in East Hampton and will have a meet-and-greet event there tomorrow from 6 to 8 p.m. The campaign has invited the public to stop by to learn about the candidate, and has asked volunteers to call voters on his behalf ahead of the primary. 

The First District’s voter registration statistics are “really really rough numbers” for a Democratic candidate, Mr. Gershon said at the Saturday event. Key to victory, he said, is reaching Independence and Conservative Party voters as well as those unaffiliated with a political party. “Of those groups, I think I can appeal to many of them,” he said. He has been knocking on doors and has driven 24,500 miles since July 1, 2017, when he first declared his candidacy. 

“I’m going around this district, shaking hands, and listening to stories from as many people as I can, not just Democrats. There are a lot of people who are unhappy with what Trump is doing to the country,” he told the gathering, noting that Mr. Zeldin, a Republican, is an ardent supporter of the president. 

The candidate spoke of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents separating families as they are processed at stations along the southwestern border. (The New York Times reported in April that more than 700 children have been taken from adults claiming to be their parents since October, including more than 100 children under the age of 4.) The practice is “one of the most vile and disgusting things I’ve seen in America,” Mr. Gershon said. “I can’t believe that that’s happening in America, and Zeldin is not speaking up against it. He’s talking about how this is the way you fight MS-13,” the international gang with ties to El Salvador, members of which have been accused in multiple murders on Long Island. “Well, these 4-year-olds are not exactly MS-13 people,” Mr. Gershon said. 

If Democrats are going to prevail in the midterm and 2020 presidential elections, they must bear “a message of hope and optimism,” Mr. Gershon said, something he believes Hillary Clinton failed to do in her campaign for president. “I’m not going to miss that. And that’s how we get independent voters.” 

The national economy may be strong, “but it’s not so great in Suffolk County,” he said. “You have people whose wages are not going up. We don’t have any industry to speak of.” 

“Donald Trump is a con man,” declared Mr. Gershon, who said that he has known the president for 25 years. But Robert Mueller, the independent counsel appointed by the deputy attorney general to investigate ties between the president’s campaign and Russian officials, “is doing an independent, fair-minded inquiry. . . . We’re not supposed to draw a conclusion ahead of time, just like Lee Zeldin is not supposed to try to shut down the investigation before it happens.” Mr. Zeldin has been critical of the investigation, accusing the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation of misconduct in launching it.